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The Art of Solitude

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.

-Alice Koller

I’ve always been a person who dislikes solitude. Growing up, I lived in a bustling house full of family and pets, and a little brother who often kept me in his company whether I liked it or not. On the days when I was not playing with my siblings or my neighborhood friends, I would spend lots of time on the phone with my childhood buddy, Nicole. Nicole and I would often keep records of how long we could talk on the phone. We once talked on the phone for six hours straight and then went to bed while still on the phone, and woke up to greet one another via the same connected phone call in the morning. (Some things never change: 20 years later, we still talk on the phone for hours at a time.)

In college, I was also never alone. I lived with a multitude of roommates for my entire college career and thereafter.

A house full of roommates ensured that if I ever got lonely, I need only to poke my head into another bedroom for some company.

At some point along the way, I lived with a former boyfriend, an arrangement that never left me alone for long, even during the sleep-hours.  

Then I bought my smartphone. Suddenly, I was able to engage with the world at any time of the day or night with just a click of a button or a text message! In the Twitter/Facebook universe, you are never alone, and for a social maven like me, that interconnectedness nourished and enticed me.

Somewhere in between baby brothers, epic phone conversation, co-habitations, and smartphones, I lived alone for about 6 months in a little beach cottage about 8 blocks from the ocean. The cottage had no TV and no wi-fi. It was during this time that I tried my hand at something I don’t think I had ever learned: how to be alone.

I cooked meals alone, ate alone, and filled my lonely nights with work, iPod music, dating, running, and wine. My mom (who is an only child and is pretty good at being happy and dynamic even when she is alone) told me that it was “good to practice” being alone, because you never know when you might have to be alone again. I had never felt lonelier during those six months, but she was right, I had to practice being fulfilled when alone. It was a lesson of adulthood that I needed to learn through experience, and it was really hard.

In contrast, my fiancé, David, has almost always lived alone. In fact, he loves being alone. He could spend days on end alone working on his various independent projects and he would be completely content. For him, being alone has nothing to do with loneliness. Being alone allows him to unwind, recharge, and gather his thoughts. I would venture to guess that he feels lonelier at a crowded party than alone in his house reading a book. Admittedly, he is pretty eccentric, but I think he may be on to something really important. Solitude is often associated with creativity, spirituality, and intellectualism. There is something enlivening about solitude.

Greg Feist, a professor at San Jose State University who studies the connection between creativity and solitude noted that when we let our focus shift away from the people and things around us, we are better able to engage in “meta-cognition,” or the process of thinking critically and reflectively about our own thoughts. There may be additional benefits to being alone too, according to John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, author of the book “Lonliness.” Cacioppo believes that as long as solitude is not motivated by fear or social anxiety, then spending time alone can be a crucially nourishing component of life.

Solitude as a critical experience in our life is a bitter pill that I have learned to swallow. I am a very social human animal and my creativity mostly comes from collaboration with others rather than from singular revelations. My times of solitude stir in me a deep loneliness and longing for human connections rather than inspiration and solace. Yet, every since the lesson I learned from my time in the little beach cottage, the art of solitude is something I continually strive to practice.

Most of the time I am not disciplined enough to be alone. I still check Facebook, surf the web, text, or chat online. I don’t know if being alone will ever get easier for me, but because it is so difficult makes it that much more important for me to keep trying to get better at it. After all, at the end of your life, even if you are surrounded by people, death will be your own singular experience. I believe that learning to find peace in solitude will arm us with the strength we need to face whatever may lay ahead when that time comes.  

To that end, I’ve been working to change my perspective on solitude. I try to practice cherishing those times I can be alone. I try to actively carve out more time in my busy life to just exist, by myself. Some of the times that I am alone, I fill my mind with thoughts, things I want to do, places I want to go, plans I want to make. Other times, I spend periods of solitude just quieting my mind and paying attention to every small breath I take. I try to be grateful for those times I have to spend with myself, just to check in with myself, and remind myself why I am my own very best friend. I think finding ultimate fulfillment and empowerment in solitude will be something I’ll have to keep struggling with for a very long time. But, by removing loneliness from solitude to re-imagine my experiences of being alone gives me the power to change, grow, and learn.

After all, practice makes perfect.

[Photo by BKusler via Flickr.]

Adulthood and the Forever Friendship with…YOURSELF


“The person I am is forever with me.” – Louis Hay

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pick me up from school and ask me two important questions: 1) How was your day today? 2) What was one new thing you learned today?

These questions (though my answers were simple as a 7 year old) are still really fundamental to my life. So much of my blog (and my life!) is dedicated to recalling back on each day (“How was your day today, Mara?”) and then thinking about one new thing I learned.  

I remember one day in second grade when my mom picked me up from school and I was crying. “How was your day?” she asked in a consoling tone.

Between sobs I replied, “Baaa-aaddd! Melissa and Nicole wouldn’t play with the ball with me today!” I guess I was very upset that my two little elementary school buddies didn’t include me in whatever they were doing that day.

My mom, always wise and insightful, said, “Well, people aren’t always going to want to play with you, and that’s okay. Tomorrow why don’t you bring your own ball and you can play with it.”

The next day, I brought my own ball. I remember that day well. I was embarrassed to play alone with my ball, but I did it. And I did it the day after that, and the one after that, until it got pretty easy to play by myself (because it was actually fun). Luckily, Melissa and Nicole must have eventually played with me again (we are still best buddies 20+ years later), but in the recalling this little childhood experience I am able to learn a lot about adulthood. That is, no matter who plays with you, always be your own best friend.

This means, even during the worst times, be able to love and console yourself unconditionally. Be able to give yourself positive self-talk to remind yourself of all of your great attributes, and all of the awesome things you have to offer to the world.

This idea of “being your own best friend” came up yesterday with one of my girlfriends. This particular friend, a smart and beautiful twenty-something, was voicing concern about wearing her bikini in front of her serious live-in boyfriend during a vacation they have planned for the summer. “As strange as it sounds, I have never worn a bikini in front of him, and I really don’t know if I would feel comfortable.”

This is an instance where being your own best friend becomes invaluable. So, I gave my friend a challenge: “Every day tell yourself five positive things about yourself. Maybe things like, I am healthy and active. I am beautiful. I am smart and funny. I am a great catch. I love my [insert favorite body part here.]”

My friend wrinkled her nose at this challenge and blushed, “I’m going to feel silly saying that! Especially about my [insert chosen favorite body part here]!” (…)

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50 First Dates, Date #4: The Words She Knows, The Tune She Hums

Sometimes people come into your life for only a brief moment in time to serve a very specific purpose – to learn (or teach) a lesson.

I’ve encountered a few people over the years who have twinkled briefly in and out of my life: My friends from my study abroad program in Spain, whose kindness and adventuring spirit inspired in me a zest for life and travel. Or, a reclusive neighbor in my apartment building in San Francisco who randomly gifted my roommate and I with beautiful plants and some really nice furniture accompanied by a simple note that read, “Pay it Forward.”

My date with “New York” last night was one of those moments in time.

As you may remember from Dates 1 and 2, New York also just got out of a very long relationship right about the same time as I did. I think what happens sometimes after a relationship (and I think it can be a relationship of any length), is that we lose sight of our own awesomeness. Think about it, a relationship is pretty all-encompassing (though, I think it is always important to retain your own sense of independence even if you are in a relationship for continued self-growth.) If the relationship doesn’t bring out the very best in each person – and if your partner doesn’t really think you are the very best – it becomes hard to remember what “the very best” parts about you are anyway.

Some of “the very best” parts of me were dimmed in my old relationship, and I think that was also very much the case for New York. After years of being dimmed, what we both needed was some good laughs, good conversation, good food and drinks, and a dimly lit piano bar where the entire bar joins in on the chorus of “Tiny Dancer” in true Almost Famous-fashion.

And what was great about Date #4 was that we were able to remind each other that we are both pretty awesome, and we have a lot of great things to offer to the world.

And tomorrow he moves to New York. And with that a moment in time has ended, but with a really valuable lesson learned.

New York Friend, thank you for twinkling into my life. May we both shine on.

Photo via The Dream Sky on Flickr.

50 First Dates: Date #3 and a Post-Valentine’s Guest Blog

Since I am now the Taylor Swift of blogging, I have to mention my Date #3, but I am cautious as I write this blog entry. Why? Because Date #3 was actually really pretty great and I don’t want to jinx it. In fact, the date was so fun (and really an easy ‘date’ vibe, which is also nice), and the guy was so dreamy, that I think it is going to set a new standard for my remaining 47 dates/suitors!

So, in lieu of spilling the beans on Bachelor #2 (for now), I am going to introduce a guest post for our 50 First Dates series. It is nice to have a male perspective on the subject of dating, and I am always amused by guest author Luke Williams’ tales. (Remember his other great guest blogs, like this one and this one?) Enjoy!

Honesty: Not Always the Best Policy?

 The Post-Valentine’s Day  Edition

By Luke Williams

Adults are complex beings with a variety of experiences and lessons learned from pre-school to today. Playing fair, not hurting others, and knowing how to say sorry are integral beliefs of my day-to-day life. So how do you approach someone who seems to have forgotten such basic social skills from his or her kindergarten years? Normally, I do my best to avoid that group, but what to do when you discover your significant other falls into the category?
This is a question that has been nagging me since February 14, 2011 – Valentine’s Day, which just so happens to be our case study for this blog.

After polling a variety of friends on the appropriate Valentine’s Day gift for a girlfriend of just barely three weeks, I settled on flowers and dinner. Nice flowers, a bouquet of multi-colored daisies, but still just flowers. Didn’t want to say too much with the gift, and also didn’t want to ignore the pseudo-significance of the day (could probably devote an entire post to the detailed conversations of scaling relationship seriousness to appropriate gift level). I prepared the dinner through my own kitchen prowess.
Mid-way through preparing the meal I turned to her and asked if she liked the flowers. I smiled, prepared to hear a, “Yes. Thank you. They were great!” Instead, I got a kick in the pants from her actual response of, “No. You realize they weren’t organic?” followed by a lecture on the evils of slave labor, importing flowers, and dangerous pesticides.
In under ten minutes my gift to her was transformed into support of seedy South America dictatorships and corporate corruption. (The flowers were actually grown locally in San Diego, FYI).
Unless I’m in a situation where constructive criticism is tantamount for success and growth, I usually adhere to the old adage of  “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and its my thought that most socially capable people do the same. Plus, I’m fairly sure Valentine’s Day is not one of those constructive criticism moments, in fact it could be the worst day for a couple to engage in the activity.
This brings us full-circle to my original question: what course is best when approaching another adult who cannot grasp even the most basic social niceties? Slip a Miss Manners book under her door and hope she takes the hint for her own sake?
Or, should I hold my tongue and let her turn into Catherine Tate\’s Nan?


A huge ‘thank you’ to Luke for regaling us with his tales of dating woes! That really sounds like it should be out of a sitcom! Any fun/funny/bad/awesome date stories you have had in your life? (Let’s keep them PG please, like Miss Taylor Swift does.) Email us!

Until Date #4,



Photo via Txberiu on Flickr.

50 First Dates


I am instituting a new segment of my blog called 50 First Dates that will recount the adventures of my new-found singledom, as well as episodes from some of our readers dating escapades. I know Carrie Bradshaw has the market on single-gal dating antics, but the difference is: Carrie Bradshaw is fictional.

Truly, a very large component of adulthood is about relationships. And, as I am sure we all have learned at some point, relationships — be they with friends, or lovers, or colleagues, or family — can be hard. So, it does seem fitting to blog about dating, and to collectively ruminate on how we can learn and grow from each and every new person we meet.

I must say, I am really enjoying being single. The weight of my relationship-woes were so heavy and unspoken for so long that now I literally feel lighter. The burden of self-loathing, self-doubt, and self-sacrifice that comes from an unhappy relationship has been lifted, albeit abruptly.

And with the end of the weight comes the beginning of the lightness.

And I laugh more, I think more, I see more, I write more, I walk more, I smell the ocean with deeper breaths and fuller lungs, I smile when the sky is blue, I sing louder in the shower, I appreciate every moment. (…)
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Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Never Being Able to Avoid "6th Grade Soccer Hair"

No matter how old you are, you still have those days where it looks like you played an entire soccer game and scored the winning goal with a header.

What’s In a Name?


I can’t get used to my friend Nicole’s new married name. I have known the girl for over 20 years as Oldewurtel. (Pronounce it however you like, you still probably won’t pronounce it right.) Now, suddenly, with a few words from a priest, the Social Security Administration, and the State of Arizona, she is a Carpenter.

As a person who has lived with a very strange last name her whole life also, I feel really more jealous that she doesn’t have to struggle anymore with helping people understand. This is how the conversation usually goes for me:

ME: My last name is Stringfield.

THEM: Oh, yes. Springfield.

ME: No, STringfield. With a “T.”

THEM: Oh, we don’t have a Strongfield on the list.

ME: No. STRING, Like string cheese. FIELD, like a field of grass.

THEM: (sounding even more confused than ever and speaking hesitantly) Is that right? Stringfield?

ME: Yep. String and field, put together. Compound word.

THEM: Is it F-I-E-L-D or F-E-I-L-D?

ME: (silently)How do you think you spell “field”? (aloud) F-I-E-L-D.

THEM: Okay, you are on the list!

Nicole was always the friend who understood the struggles of having a difficult name. I could always count on someone understanding the annoyance. Now, she goes to the bank or a restaurant and says “Carpenter.” That’s it. Carpenter.

I don’t have the heart to change her name yet. My phone still rings Nicole Oldewurtel when she calls. I don’t think I have accepted that adulthood comes with many changes — friends get married, and change their names. I need to reconcile myself with the fact that it is not identity theft.

I asked Nicole today how she felt about her new name. “I love it. I like the name and I like that it represents our family — and so in that way it does really feel like my name. Oh, and it is easier.”

I remember as a younger girl, I would practice my new signature over and over (as many younger girls do). I would write and rewrite the last name of the boy I liked in different styles. I would try to perfect it because, in my fantasy, the boy I liked and I would end up getting married and I would have to sign all my letters with the new last name.

Then, I ask, why do I feel so startled by Nicole’s lucky new name?

Nicole’s answer today made me realize that changing your name is not identity theft. That both her and I, the quirky girls with the strange names, would be just as unique whether our names be Carpenter or anything else.

And I had to just practice thinking about it this way. So, I literally did practice — just like the younger-girl-Mara would have. Just to see what it would feel like when signing a new name was less fantasy and more probability. And my boyfriend’s last name is Jones, and writing it as my signature suuurreee is easier — and so much shorter at 5 letters!
I guess it wouldn’t be half bad to change my name after all.

Cheers to friends who change their names and help you grow, my little Fickle Nickle.

Until then, this is Mara Stringfield, signing off.

P.S. Dearest BF, though I know you don’t read my blog, just in case on this rare occasion you do, please don’t be wierded out with the fact that I may or may not have been practicing writing your surname (and may or may not have published my practice on my blog). Trust me, girls do this. I think at all ages, girls do this. It just means I have a crush on you. 🙂

And We’re Back: Good Friends and 24 Hour Taco

The great thing about adulthood is making great friends who inspire you (particularly in times of woe) to pull yourself up from your bootstraps and keep on livin’.

As is the case with my dear friend Morgan and this very blog. “Let’s resurrect your blog!” she wrote to me in an email yesterday. Attached to the email was this guest blog post, and a bunch of pictures. Now that is a friend.

So, this morning, for the first time in many days, I logged in to my blog and I felt happy. I did not feel too overwhelmed by my recent heaviness of adulthood, even though nothing had really changed — my grandma was still sick, my life was still stressful, my family’s grocery store had still gone under. But now, finally, I had someone who offered to carry a bit of a load that is very important to me (my blog!) And now, finally, I accepted the help.

A few words of introduction to Morgan’s fabulous post…

One thing that I love about Morgan’s entry is that it forces the reader to really work to contextualize place and time. Her descriptions of a local taco stand (we in Southern California know there is one on every corner, a favorite in every neighborhood) and the vast Texas landscape are incredibly rich.

Morgan’s fiance, Brant, is in the Navy and is currently deployed (as we will find out from her post). For Morgan, half a world away, the comfort of Brant’s company (and the memory of one of their happiest times) is recalled again and again with a visit to her local taco shop. There is a kind of quiet tone to this entry, and all the details count to expertly lay out a real feeling of love, happiness, longing, and comfort.

24 Hour Taco
By Morgan Leahy

At 5:58 am, my alarm clock radio whines on and I get an earful of traffic, and an update on the border waits at Calexico and San Ysidro. I wrestle with the sheets and get out of bed to another perfect morning in San Diego.

I spend the day at work, quietly typing at my computer and performing many and varied administrative tasks of great and small importance. At 11:00 I can’t contain a grin as my cell phone starts to vibrate. I carry it out to the parking lot where I talk privately for the fastest half hour of my day. I hear about Brant’s day in Kuwait, how hot it is, how well his dive went, what he had for dinner. Normal things make the distance between us feel less apparent. I hear about a funny practical joke involving a Red Sox fan and a Yankees license plate holder. I tell him how I had trouble sleeping, and I return to the office to finish my day.

After work, I have to feed a friend’s fish. It is as uneventful as you would think and I lock up her house and start to walk home just before dark. The sun sinks slowly into the Pacific behind me, and I walk up the hill towards home.

I cross three blocks and see Roberto’s 24 hour Taco Shop across the street, my favorite guilty pleasure since moving here a year ago. It’s too bad I won’t be able to tell Brant about this. When he left for his deployment four months ago, he made me promise that I would not, under any circumstance, tell him about any stop at Roberto’s. Before the road West, I hadn’t known the least thing about Mexican food. I guess it really started a little north of the Rio Grande.

“Thank you,” the man at the convenience store had said when we finished paying for our assorted snacks and walked out into the hot Texas sun on the third afternoon of our drive, in May of last year. We climbed into the car. Somehow he had convinced me to drive, and we sped off fast enough to get pulled over right away, but not fast enough to get a ticket. I cried. He took the wheel. And we tried again.

We drove out of a Texas afternoon, through a Texas evening, and into a Texas night. I said I could see for miles and I thought I was the first person to ever feel that way. We had the only car on the road, and gas stations, not to mention any traces of communities, spread further and further apart. We held hands in the car and stayed about as quiet as we had been the whole trip. We had no plans or expectations of where we would sleep that night, or how far we would drive.

“Gracias,” The cashier at Roberto’s said to me as I gave him a handful of coins, “Hot Sauce?”

“Si, roja por favor.”

“Tienes un novio?”

“Si. You ask me every time”

“Do you like him?”

“Yes. Still do.”

I grab the sweating plastic to-go bag with my heavy burrito inside and turn again towards home. It’s almost dark.

Somewhere in the West Texas desert, we had turned at an exit that had signs for food and gas when it started to feel like we were playing chicken with the gas gauge. Driving up to a stop sign at the first intersection, we looked around and saw nothing, only the hills covered with a darkness so soft I wanted to wrap it around me. Ahead, a gas station sat on a small hill. It was the only light for miles.

We pulled into the parking lot, filled the tank, and walked inside the convenience store. An older man stood behind the main cash register and a young girl stood behind another counter that had hot food for sale. It was late, maybe 3am, so there wasn’t much food left and I didn’t recognize anything in the case. This was perhaps the third time I had eaten Mexican food before then, so I pointed to what turned out to be a chili relleno and hoped I would like it.

Stretching out on the grass near the curb with our dinner, I laughed as I looked at Brant. We had been on the road for three days, and the scenery, the food, and the company filled me with excitement. I felt like we were just starting out, and we were.

I arrive at my gate just as the last bit of sun is dipping below the Ocean. I take a seat on the front porch and eat part of the burrito, still reminiscing about our cross county drive. Then I step inside to email Brant.


And, for all those who have been asking, I will still put up the entry from Meghan’s wedding, as I teased you with about a month ago.

In the mean time, please show our first Guest Blogger some love! What did you take from her entry? What was striking? Do you have a favorite food that transports you somewhere great? For me, it’s hot jamon y queso sandwiches (con huevos). When I studied abroad in Madrid (on a budget so we had to stick with cheap, simple food), my dear roommate would make us these sandwiches for dinner at least 3 times a week. At the time, in our little apartment off of the purple metro line, nothing ever tasted so good…

Thanks Morgan!

We can’t wait to hear more from you!

A Mark of Adulthood

Welcome to my life, tattoo
I’m a man now, thanks to you
I expect I’ll regret you
But the skin graft man won’t get you
You’ll be there when I die,
The Who

My good friend Emily’s very conservative 52-year-old mom hates tattoos. Emily tells me that whenever her mom sees someone with a tattoo she makes some kind of comment about how much she dislikes them. “Why would anyone ever get a tattoo?” she says, in a tone of disgust. (Mind you, she is a very nice woman, she just has a strong aversion to tattoos.)

I am assuming the generation gap contributes to her hate of tattoos. I feel like (and I could be way off on this — let me know if you think otherwise) that 30-50+ years ago tattoos were generally associated with ruffians, military men, and jailbirds. Certainly, they were not associated with “civilized” young ladies, or “refined” business people.

In 2009, tattoos have become accepted as a form of artistic expression. In fact, some tattoo artists complete years of study to perfect their craft. But aside from tattoos being “more accepted” as a form of expression, let’s go back to Emily’s mom’s question and ask, Why would anyone ever get a tattoo?

It is too simple to merely answer this question with: “It is a form of expression.” Really, everything is “a form of expression” — speaking, moving, laughing, drawing, writing, singing, hairstyles, fashion, etc.

What is it that compels us to alter our body so permanently? To endure pain, often for hours, to yield an immutable image?

I think we need some pictures to really try to probe this question — analysis follows.

The first picture (below) is of my friend Danna. She recently got a tattoo (still not complete — it will take a total of three sittings) of a vine of morning glories on her back. I won’t go into the reasons why she chose it (she promises to blog that story for you later), but what I will tell you is she is 28, well educated, articulate, and works at a good corporate job. She is hardly a ruffian.

Here are a few more pictures of Danna at her second sitting as she is getting some color added.

Here is a really good shot of the detail.

What an awesome tattoo! I can’t wait to post the completed work of art once she goes for her final sitting in two weeks.

The second tattoo I want us to look at is from my friend Michael, an M.D. at Stanford. Next time you visit your doctor, imagine what might be under his/or her clothes. This might be the last image you would picture on the back of your straight-laced doc.

Isn’t that tattoo incredible? I love the detail in the Buddha and the demon, contrasted with the simple, clean lines of the wheel.

So, what can we make of these kinds of “expressions”?

In our search for the elusive adulthood, I think we can view tattoos as a metaphor. Sometimes “adulthood” means breaking out of our suit and ties, our doctor’s coats, our high heel work pumps, and making this beautiful, indelible mark on our own existence — literally.

Perhaps our generation is on to something really important.

We are unafraid of the moment. We embrace the permanence of tattoos, perhaps because we are wiser than we know. For, after all, life is short — and we must savor every moment. We must feel it all, pleasure and pain. And ultimately, we know too, the tattoo is not permanent at all: our body is only a vessel. Our ashes will one day blow away, our body will one day fully decay.

But the life we lived, wasn’t it grand? And maybe the tattoo is just a reminder to live in the moment, to cherish the past, to feel pain, scar, and heal. And when we are old and grey, and our tattoos are wrinkled, faded, or stretched, they will serve to remind us that we were once brave, bold, and uninhibited, and we lived every moment as our last.

What do you think? Do you love or hate tattoos? Do you have any tattoos – why or why not? Can you answer Emily’s mom’s question? Let’s discuss in the comments.

‘Tis the Season to be…Wed?

Did I mention so many of my friends are engaged? In fact, another of my dearest friends got engaged last weekend. I am glad I have this blog, because I think this is one of those things that many people can relate to in some way or another. I call it, Rites of Passage In Which You Are Not Included.

I think we get used to achieving rites of passages with our peers. You get your period about the same time as your friends (which is important so you can share some woman-stories and information, not just glean all your information from Judy Blume’s, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.) You go into high school about the same time as your peers, you graduate high school at the same time as your peers, you go off to college, you graduate college, you get a “real” job and all your friends are getting “real” jobs too, and you…get married around the same time?

Maybe that is why I feel left behind. Granted, I am not in any hurry to get married, but I can’t help but feel left behind among the talk of wedding gowns and flower colors.

And then the inevitable question from random people, family members, friends:
“What about you and your boyfriend?”

“What about it?”

“When will you be getting married?”

“Uh, you know. We are just takin’ our time right now and enjoying it.”

Why do I feel like I need to legitimize my relationship status? Probably because I am the one who is left behind in this epic rite of passage. And it is not that I feel left behind in my relationship, but more left behind by my friends. Kinda like if someone had told me when I was 17 that I couldn’t graduate high school for another year or two, and all my friends got to go off to exciting post-high school adventures. Yeah. That is exactly how I feel: like I am sitting in a math class, looking out the window, watching my friends pack for college (yes…it is a reverie: obviously they would not be packing RIGHT in front of my classroom window. And I did graduate high school on time, I might add — with no thanks to my poor math grades.)

I just kind of feel…quiet. Happy for them but quiet inside because I feel my dearest friends will be on to new things. New “married” things. And I will still be quietly here.

What about you guys out there? Do you, or did you, ever feel like this?

The good news about all my friends weddings is that I will be able to start a new topic to file things on our blog: weddings! That means anything wedding you want to share, talk about, etc, send my way! Pictures are especially welcome.

To start off this new “file” in the blog, I am posting a picture of my dear friend, Morgan (also a highly anticipated guest blogger, hopefully!) who is pretty much about the coolest girl around.

Morgan is a cross between a indie fashionista and a hippie, if you can wrap your head around that one. She is a New Jersey girl, transplanted to the beach of San Diego (not too shabby) and is engaged to a handsome fellow named Brant. Brant is in the Navy and is currently deployed in Kuwait. He works for the Navy E.O.D. and basically blows up bombs all day, but more on that later.

Brant proposed to Morgan with this stunning sapphire and diamond ring. The best thing about this ring (aside from that it is beautiful) is that it features conflict-free, ethically sourced, gemstones. Morgan felt strongly about not supporting the proliferation of blood diamonds, and she has always loved sapphires. Here is a picture of the loveliness:

To read more about conflict diamonds, and why it is so important to support purchases of conflict-free gemstones, check out what the U.N. has to say: Conflict Diamonds

And here is an interesting tidbit: A French lady who I used to work with had a wedding ring that was also not a diamond. She told me that diamonds were considered an “American” thing (picture a very thick French accent with a highly pejorative undertone)and in Europe no one really cared for diamonds as they were not as rare as their high prices would lead you to believe (the rareness vs. price is true, not just a cultural bias.) In fact, she even referred to them as “common.”

What do you think? To diamond or not to diamond? Did you know about conflict diamonds and now that you do will you think twice before purchasing a diamond? Lots to talk about today, folks! Sound off in the comments.

(The lovely Gatsby-esque wedding picture is via OnceWed.com, and the others are courtesy of Miss Morgan the Magnificent.)

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